Today Black Country Women’s Aid (BCWA) launched a brand new space for women who have escaped modern slavery in the UK. The specialist refuge features 12 safe, welcoming flats and a new reception centre for women rescued from modern slavery.

This has been made possible thanks to a grant of £800K from the Heart of England Community Foundation’s Building Better Lives programme. The grant enabled BCWA to purchase and refurbish the refuge, and design and build the reception centre, which will also double as an activity space to hold therapeutic groups and activities to help women rebuild their lives. The expansion also sees the installation of a memorial garden dedicated to those who have lived in the existing accommodation, and those who never got the chance.

The launch was attended by key professionals in the fight against modern slavery in the West Midlands, and who have supported BCWA in this project. This includes The Salvation Army, the Office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network and Sandwell Council, as well as the Heart of England Community Foundation.

Two women, one holding a plaque and the other holding scissors, prepare to cut a red ribbin in front of a building
CEO of Heart of England Community Foundation Tina Costello and Vice-Chair of Black Country Women’s Aid Melvena Morton cut the ribbon at the opening

Modern slavery in the UK

Thousands of people across the UK are being forced into a life they didn’t ask for, through sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, and forced criminality. BCWA provides support to hundreds of survivors a year, as a specialist partner of The Salvation Army within the UK Government’s Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract.

A safe space

“I came here and they gave me a key of my own to my own room. I had never had my own key before.”

These are the moving words of a woman supported in one of BCWA’s refuges. She had been trafficked to the UK and forced into domestic servitude with no pay, privacy or safety. Specialist refuges are a lifeline to women such as this, offering the safety and trauma-informed support they need as they begin to recover and move on with their lives.

Sara Ward, Chief Executive of Black Country Women’s Aid, comments:

“We are proud that this space has been created by women for women. This new sanctuary will mean that survivors of exploitation and slavery will have a safe and warm space to heal and recover. They will be in a place where they get the right help and never feel alone. Funding from the Heart of England Community Foundation has made it all possible and will make a huge difference to the lives of many women.”

Tina Costello, Chief Executive at the Heart of England Community Foundation, said:

“We’re honoured that the Foundation has been able to support this life-changing build, providing emergency accommodation for women who’ve been rescued from modern slavery, and also to support women fleeing domestic abuse. On a personal level, it’s something that I desperately wanted to support and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here today seeing the finished project!”

 

A group of people smiling and waving at the camera
BCWA staff, funders and partners at the event

 

A message from a refuge resident
A stone brightly painted with the words "thank you BCWA"
Residents of the refuge painted stones to decorate the new garden
pink flowers
Flowers and herbs planted by residents in the refuge in the new memorial garden.